Monday, August 28, 2017

The Vegetarian who ate Organic Chicken

Sunflower was a vegetarian who ate organic chicken. She did not see any problem with this obvious contradiction, but her roommate, Jennifer, did: “But Susan, you can’t call yourself a vegetarian if you eat meat!”

Sunflower ignored Jennifer and continued slicing into a thigh.

“Oh, right,” Jennifer rolled her eyes when she realized her mistake, “Sunflower?”

Susan had changed her name to Sunflower in recent months and Jennifer was not yet accustomed to the switch.  They had been life-long friends  or age-old foes depending on the season  and it's no easy feat for anyone, no matter how how well-meaning or open-minded, to weed out deeply ingrained biases or readjust deterministic linguistic habits.  



It was therefore understandable that Jennifer would have trouble keeping Susan's new name straight. 

Susan did not see it that way. 

Though a self-identified empath with an open third eye and a dogeared copy of The Celestine Prophesy on her nightstand, Susan was not, in practice, sensitive to the struggles of another or to viewpoints she herself did not share. 

As an unsympathetic empath, then, Susan tended to be openly hostile towards anyone who did not refer to her as Sunflower, even if the "ignorant" person genuinely did not know she had changed her name.

It would appear in the current context, however, that Susan was foregoing her usual hostility in exchange for another tried and true tactic of those with a superiority complex who can't handle having their illusions questioned or opinions challenged: Pretend the "offending" person does not exist.

Susan, though, having never really possessed the courage of her convictions, could not keep up the pretense for long. The second Jennifer addressed her in the desired way, she (Susan) immediately slammed down the cleaver she'd been using to delicately slice the chicken, assumed a tight smile, took a deep breath and cheerfully exclaimed, "Jen! I didn't see you come in! Did you say something?"

But of course Susan knew perfectly well what Jennifer had said and before Jennifer could repeat herself, the cheerfulness drained from Susan's voice and she snapped, “It’s organic!” as if the word “organic” granted meat a pardon from not being a vegetable.

“And another thing!", Sunflower continued, quickly working herself up into a rant, "I don’t want YOU or ANY of your friends touching my organic chicken! If you touch any of my stuff I’ll call the police!”

Susan (or Sunflower) appeared to be wilting under the strain of trying to be something she was not. But rather than consider the roots of her hypocrisy or give Jennifer a chance to speak, Sunflower angrily lit one of her organic cigarettes and with a dramatic swoosh of her bohemian skirt, stormed out of the kitchen, bumping into Judith along the way. “Judith!" she screamed, "you’re always in the way!!”

Judith was an antique armoire Sunflower had found at a flea market.

Sunflower named all her material possessions. Every person, object and thing in the universe, inorganic, organic or otherwise, was on its own spiritual path to enlightenment, she claimed, and deserved a name that captured its true essence. As for Sunflower and her chosen rechristening, like most ideologically-driven people, she did not heed her own rhetoric and no more resembled a sunny flower than she did a vegetarian or a non-smoker.

In view of this most recent manifestation of Sunflower's aggression and volatility, Jennifer realized that her "friend" might truly be dangerous and for the sake of safety, decided to do as Sunflower demanded and not touch anything that belonged to the crazy woman. Jennifer further decided then and there that she would keep her distance until she could find her own apartment.

Still, it's difficult to find your own apartment when there is a shortage of affordable housing.  It's also difficult to keep one's distance when living in the same space, and as the weeks passed and the stress of trying to remain civil to an uncivil person wore on, Jennifer’s resentment towards Sunflower grew. 

It grew each time she opened the fridge and noted the partially-picked at, soon to start rotting carcass of Sunflower's organic chicken. It grew every time she eyed Sunflower’s unwashed dishes sitting by the sink, or smelled the stench of organic cigarette butts left smoldering in ashtrays all over the house. It grew with each new layer of Judith’s accumulating dust and the resulting sneezing fit Jennifer invariably launched into every time she walked by the armoire. But it grew the strongest whenever she overheard Sunflower misuse the word "organic".

Eventually, Jennifer's simmering resentment intensified to such a degree that she could stand it no longer. In a cleaning frenzy, she attacked the kitchen with a mop, Pine-Sol and dish soap. She threw the chicken carcass and its container into a trash bag, noting that it wasn’t even organic. It was an ordinary rotisserie bird bought on sale at the independent supermarket.

Sunflower was ENRAGED when she later discovered what Jennifer had done and promptly called 911.

“I need to report a crime!” she shrilled into the phone, but stopped mid-sentence when she noticed Judith standing there, gleaming and dust-free.

Hyperventilating, still with the phone to her ear, she yelled at Jennifer in disbelief, ”What did you DO TO JUDITH?? YOU ASSAULTED her!! How DARE you!!!”


The police arrived shortly thereafter. They had received a call about an altercation involving a housecleaning incident, a chicken, a sunflower, two victims named Judith and Jennifer, and one assailant wielding a sawed-off broomstick.

In the mayhem and confusion that ensued, Sunflower, whose name as it turned out had not been legally changed, was taken away in handcuffs for later psychiatric evaluation.  Jennifer was checked over for any injuries and though shaken was deemed fine. She said she was just happy she wouldn't have to live with Susan any more and did not want to pursue criminal charges.

Judith was not available for comment.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Rape of Serenity

I am standing at the window watching Serenity leave. Her head is bowed and uncovered. Rivulets of rainwater run down her face like mini waterfalls and drip from the tip of her nose. Strands of dark hair plaster her cheeks and I note her lips are trembling from the wet and cold.

She's obviously not dressed for the weather, but she was raped last night and warmth wasn't the prime concern when her grandmother brought her in.


The rape occurred on the railroad tracks at 3 a.m., the devil's hour when shadows come alive and gremlins cast off their cumbersome angelic disguises so as not to hinder their depraved objectives. Serenity is only 16, but hell has visited her before and this isn't the first time in her life that she's been attacked or molested. 

She therefore knows the deal when it comes to the powers that be, the powers that are ostensibly there to protect and serve, and did not want to come in as a result. But her grandmother insisted. 

I can understand Serenity's resistance. 

A rape victim submitting to a rape kit is like a physical assault victim submitting to a baseball bat to the other, non-battered side of her head in order to establish plausibility. Even then – even when they've broken bones and the bloody glove does fit everyone is suspicious of the veracity of a good rape "story" so why bother?

No one wants a guilty man found criminally responsible for something other men secretly want to do as well (if the viral popularity of violent internet porn tells us anything, it's that). But no matter – the same sadistic animal that rapes, beats, kills and tortures also happens to be the same one who controls the levers of power, be it law maker, judge, police officer, physician, politician, academician, propagandist, publisher, priest, sugar daddy, the boys' club of Silicon Valley, businessmen in general or the uber rich. How handy.

It's handy for the predatory male, anyway. 

Not so "handy" for aboriginal girls raped on railroad tracks. Perhaps this is what Serenity thinks on some subconscious level as Dr. Basson confidently strides into the examining room. He is a healthy white male, 45, who immigrated from South Africa and now lives with his perfectly symmetrical, much younger, breast-implanted wife on the "right side" of the tracks – the same tracks where Serenity was raped. Rape might be opportunistic, but it has no boundaries.

Dr. Basson, Willem to those "privileged" enough to call him a friend, pulls back the grey privacy curtains without regard for Serenity's privacy. Cathy, who is sitting in the waiting room, catches a glimpse of the sopping wet girl, recognizes her and immediately starts texting. Confidentiality? No. This is a game with easy to break rules if you have the upper hand. Don't ever forget that.

Willem is one of the ones with the upper hand and he never forgets that. He approaches Serenity without making eye contact, and instead looks down at the clipboard he carries in his freshly scrubbed hands. He informs her with the carefully controlled contempt he's been honing his whole life – further sharpened into a deceptively benevolent prejudice since immigrating to the Canadian North – that he will have to do a rape kit.

Serenity, who at the tender age of 16 has already been so sexually, physically and psychologically traumatized throughout her life that she can't rely on her own repressed memories, doesn't think she knows what a rape kit is, even though she's been subjected to one before. Dr. Basson thus gives her a detached, yet stern, clinical summary of what a rape kit entails. It's as if he is mildly irritated with such formalities, such nonsense.

When he is done with his explanation, he finally looks Serenity in the eye so that he can make it perfectly clear that if she wants his assistance she will have to cooperate with the rape kit, which to Serenity's ears sounds just as bad as the rape she endured. 

Dr. Basson doesn't add that he's a busy, important man who doesn't have time for hysterical girls who are stupid enough to go outside unchaperoned in the middle of the night.

There should be a curfew for these Indians, he thinks with disdain.

By now Serenity is sitting up on the examining table, legs dangling over the edge like the lifeless extremities of a hand-stitched cloth doll. With mascara smudged around her eyes and blood matting the back of her head where she was slammed into the tracks, she eyes the doctor through the thick curtain of her damp, black hair and says, "Fuck you". 

It is a surprisingly articulate and calm "fuck you" and grabs Willem's attention. He looks at her now as if she's a new person of interest who's only just entered the room. He experiences a brief jolt of adrenaline despite his otherwise meticulous self-control.

He would not admit it to anyone, but he does enjoy the sport of a feisty squaw.

He, however, is not accustomed to being spoken to with such irreverence by a Native of any kind and he'll have to put her in her place. Still, it's surprising – they usually don't speak at all in Willem's experience. If it's absolutely necessary that they do respond, it's normally in hard to hear, grammatically incoherent mumbles.

"I'm sorry, Miss, I'm here to assist you, but I WILL NOT tolerant abuse from you. If you want my help you'll have to address me with the respect I'm due". 

Willem does not break his intimidating stare before adding, "I'll give you a moment to think about it". 

As he turns to leave, Serenity's limp leg suddenly comes to life and she kicks at Willem, just missing his calf. She tells him if he comes near her she'll scream.

She wants to go home.

Willem is indignant and leaves to tell the police on her, who are waiting in the waiting room along with "Good Samaritan" Cathy with her sourpuss face and smug, vindictive fingers. Here's to hoping karma does its job and arthritis sets in early.

The "good" doctor then returns to Serenity with the same two RCMP officers who had taken her initial statement. This fine duo of public service attempts to set Serenity straight, none of these adults evidently cognizant that they are dealing with an abused child who has just been brutally assaulted. 

Serenity is understandably distraught when confronted with all this menacing "help" and again spews "abusive" expletives.

How do these men, responsible for a minor's care and well-being, deal with Serenity's perfectly justifiable acting out? They wash their hands of her. 

Dr. Basson, most likely never abused, harassed or demeaned in his entire privileged life, literally tells a teenage girl who has just been abused beyond imagination that he will not be abused by her. Unless she stops abusing him, he says he cannot treat her and leaves Serenity alone with the RCMP officers. 

The officers offer to drive her home. She tells them, risking arrest by the way, to fuck off too, the way she did the "good" doctor.

Fortunately they do not arrest her, but they don't do anything else, either.

Serenity is "free" now to walk home in the rain with her grandmother. She wants to say "I told you so" but why bother? 



Saturday, May 28, 2016

Her Battered Mind

Somewhere in the dark recesses of her battered mind,
Was a lost fleck of ego she thought she'd never find.
She gave up the search and her outlook grew bleak;
The storm in her head reached a dangerous peak.

She walked around buried alive from within,
Choking on air, nails clawing under skin.
She bore the torture but wanted it to cease,
She craved some sort of eternal release.

A corpse inside a breathing body she would soon be,
If she didn't put a permanent end to her misery.
But before she could take matters into her own hands,
She heard a voice giving outrageous commands.

It told her to change her thinking and give it a rest,
But with gun in hand, she cried she couldn't endure one more test.
But its calm persistence made her ask why in a tone quiet and flat,
And it replied because she was worth it, as simple as that.

She can't say how or whence the voice came,
Whether ego, delusion, or God, it's all just the same.
But she knows to this day when her mood darkens the light,
There's a spark living in her, waiting and ready to ignite.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Escape from a Residential School

Wanda secretly planned a summer trip home. It was a trip she and her family had been promised 3 years beforehand when she was taken from her village. All the children, in fact, were taken from the village and brought to St. Michael's Indian Residential School to live. There they would be educated in the Anglo-Saxon and Christian traditions.

They were told it was for the good of their people. Through religious indoctrination of their young, the savages would be assimilated into civilized society and their heathen souls redeemed. Youngsters were thus plunged into an ironically savage world of government sanctioned abductions and punitively run religious boarding schools.

Emily Carr, Gitwangak (1912), Oil on Canvas

Such traumatic circumstances wore down most of the children. Wanda, however, was not easily broken. She was beautiful, the daughter of a Haida princess and warrior chief, and drew great strength from knowing her heritage. This did not sit well with the staff. The Sisters of St. Michael’s and their priest, Father Fredrick, did all they could, in the name of Jesus Christ, to break the child.

The things they did to break her would have made hardened men – men under the very shield of a patriarchal God, beg for mercy and pledge allegiance to the Enemy. 

But no matter what they did, her spirit would not be broken. 

The Guardians

She seemed protected by an invisible shield and the guardian eagles of her ancient ancestors who flew overhead. They left warning feathers as evidence of their presence -- witnesses to the atrocities inflicted under the guise of a manmade god.

Under such tutelage, Wanda's soul was emboldened to stand strong and resolute no matter what was done to her. She continued to whisper in her native language to the other students. When the Sisters heard, they stabbed her tongue with knitting needles as punishment for speaking Satan's words. Wanda grew accustomed to such tortuous lessons and dealt with the beatings, starvation, solitary confinement and sexual assaults as the stoics taught, transforming adversity into mental triumph and spiritual strength.

She was sure if her people found out what was really happening at St. Michael's, she and the other children would be rescued. It was this belief that fueled Wanda's resolve to escape during the warm summer months in search of help. 

She told the other children she'd soon be back for them. And true to her word, Wanda was indeed returned to the children. She was returned by the Sisters who had caught her trying to leave in the middle of the night. They tortured her until the wee morning hours and intended to use her barely alive body as an example for the rest of the children. 

There is no greater restraint on a renegade spirit than fear.

But under the shield of Wanda's invisible guardians, she felt no pain and endured the last hours of her incarnation without so much as a whimper, until her spirit was finally delivered home.

With her soul safely back in the womb of creation, the men and women of St. Michael's had to make due with the girl's lifeless body. They took her prepubescent corpse, naked and bruised, and hung it by a rope from the grand oak overlooking the school. The rest of the terrorized students were assembled in front of the body as it swayed along with a mighty wind in the hot early sun. 

A murder of crows swirled overhead as eagles stood guard.

Father Fredrick stood before the grand oak and began his hellfire and brimstone sermon. But as his preaching gained a terrible momentum and his voice shrilled, rather than instill abject fear in the children, they were comforted with a great calm. And there in front of their innocent eyes, a pair of almighty eagles descended from on high, converging with talons drawn on Father Fredrick's jugular.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Leftovers: Lesser Cousins of a Better Creed

The leftovers waited patiently,
In the fridge for their turn.
They did not harbor resentment,
Nor was their banishment of concern.

Except Brussels who saw the writing on the wall;
They knew they'd be rejected and started to pout,
"Through no fault of our own we stink,
Like rotten eggs and old sauerkraut!"

Potatoes tried to console them with sage advice:
Sure, they were the lesser cousins of a better creed,
But rest assured, ALL the leftovers would be
Sought after by gluttony and greed.

The vegetables and their sauces,
Gravy and sausage dressing too,
Congealed under plastic wrap,
Between the mayo jar and last week's stew.

Cranberries, yams and turkey,
Cooled in the old Frigidaire.
The whipping cream and pumpkin pie,
Sat idly by without a care.

But as the leftovers leisurely gossiped
In the crisp Freon atmosphere,
Brussels foresaw a hopeless destiny:
"We're never getting out of here!"

The sprouts had been overcooked,
And gave off their rancid smell.
They would be the only leftover
The gluttons would repel.

The other leftovers humored Brussels,
While furtively rolling their esculent eyes.
Then just as predicted they heard muffled voices,
"You get the turkey, I'll get the pies!"

They could hear clanging glass,
And the fridge door creaking.
With a flood of light the gluttons had arrived,
Whispering and sneaking.

Leftovers were piled onto plates,
And heated in the microwave.
But not the Brussels sprouts 
Condemned to rot in their frigid grave.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Predatory Female

The lovestruck fool goes where Seduction calls –
Tasty game for The One who enthralls.
Easy prey for the necrotic heart,
Of a predatory feline acting a part.

He's a squirrel lured to nest on the open sea,
Love is a sleek fin that encircles hungrily.
But the squirrel isn't made to endure the ocean's rhythm and roar,
He must be enticed to leave the safety of land and shore.

Pulled by the temptation of undulating tides,
His flesh prickles with wanting as Love collides.
The squirrel swoons at the glint of a sharp tooth,
Love continues her courtship lithe and couth.

He yields his mind to appease a primal urge;
Love sees her chance and closes in with rapturous surge.
She lunges and thrusts to capture her helpless feed –
Just another fool consumed by his own lovesick need.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Human Pincushion

Through a series of unfortunate accidents I dropped a box of pins and needles in a dimly lit area of my carpeted living room. Lizzy witnessed the whole thing and without moving to help me pick any of the pins up, knowingly said, “Dad’s going to step on one of those pins”.

“No”, I corrected as I desperately crawled around on my hands and knees, “we’re going to pick them all up. No one is going to step on a pin! Now please help me!”

I think she reluctantly picked up ONE pin, but upon doing so, shrieked in pain as if she had been stabbed with a harpoon and gave up.  She told me she was just a kid and it was dangerous for kids to pick up pins. Besides, she pointed out, she wasn’t the one who dropped them.

Insolent child.

Still, even without her assistance I thought I had gathered up all the pins.

I was wrong…as tends to happen.

Sure enough, a few days after I drop the pins, I get a frantic, angry phone call from John. He is in agony. He has stepped on a needle and it’s inserted so far into his foot that only the eye of the needle is poking out.

I can hear Lizzy, the little traitor, in the background saying, “I told mom this would happen.”

I don’t know why I’m the first person John calls in such situations. First remove the needle and if you need medical assistance, go to an Emergency Room. Do not call me. I cannot help you.

But of course he is not phoning for help or advice. He, with his little sidekick, Lizzy, is phoning to place blame.

In a barely controlled voice he asks me if I know why he stepped on a pin.

“Because you don’t look where you’re going?” I answer helpfully.

“NO!” he screams abandoning all pretence of self-control. “YOU dropped pins on the carpet and didn’t pick them up!”

My cell vibrates at the intensity of his rage.

“Where are you getting your information?” I ask, as if I don’t know.

“LIZZY told me!!!”

“Lizzy is a child,” I say, “who are you going to believe, her or a grown woman?”

John cannot believe my lack of contrition and yells, “HER!”

“Does it really matter why at this point?” I ask. “Don’t you think you should remove the foreign object from your foot before worrying about who is responsible? Also, you have to be responsible for your own feet. Surely, you can’t blame me for where YOU decide to tread!”

In frustration he hangs up.

A few days later he has stepped on another one of these pins and I receive another one of his phone calls.

It occurs three more times in the proceeding weeks. Each time I am not home and each time he phones me to vent his frustration and demand that something be done. Short of ripping up the carpet, I don’t know what more can be done.

He doesn’t know either, but he does know that with every pin that punctures his foot, his resentment for me builds, as does his fear of entering the living room. His god, the TV, is in there, though, so I’m not too worried about it. It isn’t like he can avoid his place of worship.

A few more weeks of this and he tells me he can’t take it anymore. He does not think he can survive another pinning. And even though I have not admitted (and never will) to any culpability in the matter, he is still suspicious that the scatterbrained clumsiness I am notorious for is responsible for the pins. Because of this, he thinks it’s only fair I offer up some sort of restitution. Failing that, it would give him great satisfaction to see ME step on one of these pins and collapse to the ground writhing in pain, develop an infection and possibly die.

I tell him that is a terrible thing to wish on anyone, and as punishment, he's left me with no choice but to put The Curse of the Pin on him.

“You already DID!!!” he sputters.

I suggest to him that if it was me who kept stepping on pins, I’d start wearing slippers. Or I'd avoid the area where I suspected the pins were embedded.

For some weird reason, even though it fills him with dread, he cannot keep himself away from the vicinity of the pin carnage. This perverse fascination is in fact why he keeps stepping on the pins in the first place. Look and ye shall find.

In a shocking departure from his usual behavior, eventually he does listen to me and takes to wearing slippers. He also makes an effort to stay away from the area in question, but he simply cannot do it for long. Even so, for another week he is fine. No more pinnings. It seems he has managed to retrieve all the wayward pins with his foot.

“See?” I brighten, “something positive has come out of this. Now no one else will step on a pin because you’ve retrieved them all with your foot! You’re a super great humanitarian”.

He does not think I'm funny, and my words of praise do nothing to dissolve his simmering rage, which he’s been trying to contain since I put the Curse of the Pin on him. Although he openly scoffs at such things, he isn’t fooling me – not with his “controlled” rage or his disbelief in my abilities. Secretly, he isn’t so sure my curses aren’t real. 

I AM about to stick a pin in your voodoo doll. Brace yourself.
~ Lala

And sure enough, a few mornings later he wakes up with a stabbing ache in his back. This is nothing new, mind you, and as a rule I more or less ignore his physical complaints. He worries and complains about back pain incessantly because when he was 19 he got into a bad car accident and fractured his spine. His doctors at the time warned that as he got older he may start to experience chronic lumbar pain and other associated symptoms.

As a result, John is constantly on high alert to ANY discomfort in his back no matter how minor or imagined. This time, however, he says it is “different” and excruciating enough that he can’t go to work.

For the rest of the day, he slobs out on the couch moaning about how he needs to go to the doctor and get some painkillers, but he never makes a move to actually do this.

It is not until later in the night at maybe 9 or 10 o’clock that I get another one of John’s by now customary phone calls while I’m out. From his pressured tone and rapid breathing I know immediately this has something to do with pins.

I am correct.

It seems John had reached around to scratch where his back hurt and in doing so pricked his finger on something sharp. There was blood. He nearly fainted when he realized what it was.

It was the tip of a pin.

You have no idea how disappointed I am that he never went to see that doctor about his “ailment”.


Every time I think of this whole pin situation I am thrown into a new fit of laughter. As a consequence, John has stopped speaking to me.  He is beside himself with  anger that I’m not taking it more seriously. He says with utter conviction that if he hadn’t felt the pin when he did, he probably would be dead right now.




Ignoring the fact he had wished "figurative" death on me only a few days ago, I laugh and say, “Don’t be absurd. You can’t die from being stabbed in the back with a pin. A knife, sure, but a pin? I don’t think so, there Pincushion”.

I’ve now taken to calling him Pincushion.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Deafening Silence

There were 12 children in total, some step-siblings, some half and some full — all mashed together like misfit puzzle pieces forced into a distorted family portrait.

Papa Phil did not father all twelve, but they all had at some point been under his care. The women who gave birth to these children, two of whom were once Papa Phil's wives, had all been lost to one of booze, madness or death.

Papa Phil knew he could not raise a brood of motherless kids by himself, so he took yet another wife, Muriel, when the youngest of the dozen was still in diapers. Muriel herself could not get pregnant, but desperately yearned for a baby and was thus immediately smitten with the youngest of the children.

The older kids, none of them Papa Phil's biological offspring, were more or less ignored by Muriel and terrorized by Phil. But it was a silent terror. Silence like this is loud and oppressive — it defies logic and the laws of nature. The unsaid things are the scariest things — the things no one wants to acknowledge.

The silence was therefore free to slip in between the ketchup sandwiches made with stale bread, through the soiled sheets, and around the creaking floorboards late at night when children should be soundly sleeping. They should not be wide awake concentrating with every cell of their being on some bedroom wall shadow until the silent thing is done.

Silence becomes an odd comfort when it accompanies everything one does. It is like a prison guard the prisoner comes to rely on, even after the bars have been left unlocked and the guard eliminated.

Maryanne, a middle-aged adult now, resented the guarded silence. Her siblings, by comparison, went on seemingly unscathed with a regimented existence. Maryanne could not understand their refusal to talk about what had happened to them because it consumed her. She could barely handle it, the thought of Papa Phil having gotten away with his crimes, aided and abetted by muteness. 

There did, however, come a day when she could no longer tolerate the dead air and spoke up. The power of confession, what really should have only been the therapeutic passing of an honest moment, created a dystopia Maryanne could not have anticipated. Who would have thought that with the mere utterance of a few words that so much human misery would scream forth from the silence like a million unleashed demons.

There would be suicide, addiction and homicidal rage. There would be financial ruin, prison, insanity, agony and death. All their carefully patched together lies, their precariously assembled lives, decimated by truth.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Mormons are in the Building

Belinda calls me over to the window. She looks concerned as she watches a Mormon twosome approaching the building. They always march in pairs.

"Why would the Mormons be here?" she says in a near whisper.

She sounds scared.

"Well, there are numerous reasons why they could be here, Belinda. It's not like there's a law forbidding them from entering the building." I laugh. "Why? Do you think they're coming for you?"

It turns out the thought has crossed her mind. 

They seem to seek her out where ever she goes, especially at her home where they come knocking on a regular basis, which is partly her own fault. If you feed a stray it will invariably come back. Sometimes, if you don't set up firm boundaries from the outset, the stray will go further and muscle his way right into your house. Make himself at home. 

But make no mistake. 

He is not interested in having you domesticate him. He is using you and will come and go as he pleases. But you're an innocent and will think with self-satisfaction that he's grown to love and respect you. He has not. He mocks you when you aren't looking. 

The Mormons kind of work like that, although I imagine their devoted "foot soldiers" are for the most part unaware that they are mocking anyone. They believe they are the righteous ones and that it is the rest of us who are confused, not them. Also, they have a manual of strategy and are prepared with circular reasoning to confound you if necessary.

If you're not careful, eventually, if the Mormons are successful with their door-to-door, boots on the ground strategies, they will lead you right from your home into theirs, which is more of a lair than a "home". You won't know what hit you and they will have another brick for their wall.




I don't know how effective their approach is, and I would be interested to know their success rate, but you see Mormon and not to mention Jehovah Witness pairs everywhere so they must be catching at least some of their prey. But they are nice enough people, so if you are going to be drawn into a cult-like scenario anyway, you could do worse.

Belinda, however, is too much of a contrarian to ever be lured into a cult or be persuaded by fundamentalism of any kind. She will never be one of their caught prey, but it doesn't stop them from trying. They mistake her natural curiosity, compassion and willingness to listen and engage with them for weakness they can exploit. But Belinda is no saint and as it turns out she's the one exploiting them, even though exploitation was never her intention and she feels bad about it. 

After Belinda's initial introduction to the Mormons, which amounted to several hours-long conversations standing in her doorway, she wanted them to leave her alone. She had no plan to use them for her own means. She isn't that kind of a girl. Belinda is a giver by nature, a leaver, not a taker.

Basically, the Mormons charitable ways were changing Belinda, corrupting her.

And it wasn't that she didn't enjoy those early marathon conversations with them, helped by the fact they were mostly young, attractive, affable males in handsome suits who darkened her doorway. But it was getting to be too much. There are some repetitions in life that are pleasurable every time you experience them like laughing at a repeat episode of The Office, but the same conversation with self-assured religious weirdos intent on converting you is not one of life's pleasures – at least not as far as Belinda is concerned. 

Personally, I enjoy the weirdos. 

But you have to have boundaries. Even patience has a right to die, especially after a long life of self-control. She gets tired. Give her a break. 

In other words, if you are going to have weirdos, especially religious ones, in your life, be kind, be amused, be willing to accept they might have some insight to share, but do not be a doormat. Or as I like to call a female trapped in the role of lipsticked-android, one programmed to obey and conditioned to accept abuse: a Dormata.

To avoid becoming a Dormata yourself, you unfortunately have to at some juncture allow your patience to run out, release your inner wolf to bare her teeth and override your programming. You must have it within you to slam a door in someone's smug face, hang up a phone mid-sentence when you realize the superiority of the prick on the other end is beyond reason, and scream at a person whose willful stupidity has reached a level of absurdity that no longer amuses you and now pisses you off. 

And if all that fails, you're sick of taking the highroad alone, and you don't have the brain or inclination to think up some Machiavellian scheme that will ruin the person's life, make him question his own sanity, and have him end up in a mental institution or destitute and living in a rodent-infested hovel, shove that asshole down a flight of stairs, along with all his belongings and a few of your own you no longer want. Kill two birds with one stone that way.

You will also help out the oxymoronic men's rights movement by justifying their insipid arguments and otherwise "hilarious" jabs that, for instance, there is a critical need for transition house funding to shelter an epidemic of raped and domestically abused men. Keep them safe from all those scary single mothers wielding a mop with one arm and doing biceps curls with the weight of a nursing baby in the other.

But don't actually kill a bird or a person and there is no epidemic problem of women raping and assaulting men. People are way too literal.

As for Belinda, she is too decent of a person to even be rude to a Mormon never mind physically hurt one. Her favorite tactic when dealing with potentially awkward social interactions is avoidance, which I support. Despite the bravado above, in reality, until I reach the point where my patience runs out, I'm more like an accommodating Dormata prone to avoidant behavior than a rabid wolf foaming at the mouth for a fight, although if I'm pushed hard enough things can get ugly. There is a lot of suppressed rage swept under my doormat patiently waiting for an opportunity to express itself.

With regards to Belinda, a woman who is neither abuser nor victim, when avoidance is impossible because the Mormons, for example, see her peeking through her curtains, she reluctantly answers her door. But she likes to steer their conversations away from dogmatic themes to secular ones. Up until recently, this worked well and the Mormons would follow her lead. 

They would spend most of their early conversations discussing topics such as the weather, geography, tourist attractions, local wildlife, the state of the public school system and "children these days".

At some level Belinda knew their willingness to skirt the real reason they were talking to her was because they were first establishing a good rapport ( an essential ingredient in any relationship where one side has an agenda that doesn't include brute force) before going in for the final kill. 

So she was not particularly surprised when they started slipping in their true agenda between commenting on the rain with interjections about "God's plan", suggestions that her "good feelings" were a direct result of the Holy Ghost working on her at that very moment, and testimony of the divine authority of one Joseph Smith. Most alarming to Belinda was their mention of the second coming, which they seemed to imply could happen at any moment. Did she have her spiritual house in order?

To help with that spiritual order, they invited her to pray with them and Belinda, feeling like a deer caught in headlights because she isn't the praying kind, apologized, saying she couldn't pray right now because she had groceries in the trunk of her car that she had to bring inside. Her ice cream was melting. 

They offered to bring the groceries inside for her and that was how it started. From then on, any time the topic got a little too "religiousy" Belinda would say she had to go. They would respond by offering to do something for her, she would reconsider that she really "had" to go just yet and would relent, allowing the Mormons to do chores for her, which they did with a smile. How could she resist such cheerful, free labour? She couldn't, especially since her house was looking pretty spiffy as a direct result of their volunteer work.

Nevertheless, there came a day when she had had enough of the Mormons. Belinda had no more errands for them and she was worried if she continued to let them come around she'd end up at their church because she had no more excuses left and didn't want to hurt their feelings. She felt she was at risk of becoming an accidental Mormon.

As a consequence, the last time they asked if there was anything they could do for her, which by this time she felt guilty if she didn't come up with some chore for them, instead of drumming up business in her own house, she blurted out that her brother, Jimmy, had recently bought a house across town and needed help with renovations.

Fast forward many hours later and Jimmy is furiously trying to get a hold of Belinda. It is an angry text, phone call, knock on the door and email Belinda has been expecting. She doesn't answer any of this and ever since has been in self-isolation-lock-down mode. Nothing will make her open her door again. Nothing. 

She knows she no longer has to feel guilty because the Mormons are occupied with Jimmy now – Jimmy, who like Belinda, having been raised in the same household by the same parents, finds it hard to be mean to nice people, no matter what their cult-agenda. At least she thought the Mormons were busy with Jimmy until seeing them outside our window.

"You really thought all their time and energy was being spent on one potential convert, Belinda?" I look at her doubtfully.

"Yes, I did. His house needs tons of work." 

She seems to be hyperventilating and goes mute, her mind slammed shut by sheer panic. 

I reassure her that we are behind three password-protected, security doors. The Mormons aren't getting in without permission and there is no conceivable reason to give them permission. She is safe.

Then the phone rings. Belinda screams.

Damn Mormons.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Frozen Watch

Theresa's watch is frozen at 6 o'clock. It has been stubbornly keeping the same hour for 40 years. When asked why she holds onto the timepiece, Theresa says, "Why, it's a good watch! It still keeps the time."

Then she smiles and starts humming. No one is sure of the tune. Her eyes glaze over and just like that Theresa is gone, lost in the ancient maze of her disconnected memory.

The Meadows staff and occasional visitor do not pay Theresa much heed. She is a harmless, crazy old woman now, her mind scrambled after years of powerful psychotropic drugs coursing through her veins and electroshock therapy zip-zapping through her brain. Being tied to a bed against her will one too many times, and being forced into straight jackets when a kind but firm hand would have done, in addition to numerous stints in isolation, further contributed to the loss of her sanity.

"Be careful about spending too much time with those head doctors," she likes to whisper during rare lucid moments. "They're looking for crazy and they ALWAYS find crazy."  She sputters and laughs until the light of cognition goes out and drool escapes from the corner of her mouth.

Time froze for Theresa with the ring of a doorbell. It was her neighbor at the front entrance of her house. He was cradling in his arms what seemed to be a limp, bloody animal – road kill, maybe a dog. Theresa could not tell. There was so much blood.

She does not know what happened after that. It is as if someone came along and hit the eject button right before the climactic scene of a suspenseful movie. The psychiatrists call it "psychogenic amnesia", but Theresa doesn't understand their psychobabble. She pretends to listen intently, if her sedatives don't make it too difficult to concentrate, but in truth she is wondering about her son, Billy.

She sneaks a peek at her watch: Oh dear, it's dinnertime. Billy is officially late. He should have been home at least 15 minutes ago, so he'd have time to wash up before supper. Billy's father will not be pleased.

Theresa looks up at Dr. Smith, "I'm terribly sorry sir, but I must go. My son is waiting for me, and I still have to get the pot roast out of the oven.”

She attempts to get up to leave, but in her chemical restraints she finds her legs don't work like they once did . She doesn’t struggle or fight to stand. Her spirit was effectively dulled long ago. Instead, she relaxes back into her chair and calmly folds her hands into her lap, but not before checking her watch again. 

She sighs, "What could be keeping Billy?"

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Beautiful People

Brittany needed another $100 for the Louis Vuitton handbag she had to have. Every credit card was over its limit and she had exhausted her other usual avenues for borrowed money, except Lilith, her sister.

Lilith had a fat savings account, but despised what she referred to as "the beautiful people".  She wouldn't allow anyone to use a dime of her money, not even a dime that earned interest, towards beauty propaganda. And as far as Lilith was concerned, Louis Vuitton was propaganda.

The worms will live in every host. It's hard to pick which one they eat the most
The Beautiful People (source).
Brittany did not understand Lilith. Lilith was beautiful, despite the thick-rimmed glasses that overwhelmed her otherwise lovely features, or the matted hair she never brushed, or her refusal to wear deodorant, apply cosmetics, or wear figure-flatting clothing that emphasized her lithe frame rather than hide it under bulky cable knit.

Perhaps Brittany wasn’t as smart as her sister, but it seemed to her Lilith's contempt for beautiful people was like a wealthy person's contempt for wealth. Don't lecture the poor money can't buy you happiness if you've never been starving, and don't tell the ugly beauty can't bring you popularity if you've never been marginalized by ugliness.

What cruel twist of fate, thought Brittany, was this? She should have Lilith's beauty. She should be the one with all the buckets and barrels of disposable income. She should possess Lilith's ingenuity and shrewd business sense. It was all wasted on Lilith! Oh the things Brittany would do if she was Lilith!

"Of course you don't understand anything! And you could never be me," Lilith suddenly shot out, interrupting Brittany's bitter ruminations. It was as if Lilith could read her mind.

"You're nothing but a slave," Lilith continued, "who doesn't know the strength of her weakness. You support a master and don't realize you're doing it...with your expensive fashion you can’t afford."


Brittany felt mildly insulted even though she had no idea what Lilith was talking about or if she should be insulted. Lilith's insinuations and subtleties were always so confusing and exhausting to Brittany. Normally at times like this she would simply tune her sister out or walk away, but she really, really wanted that hand bag. Brittany would grovel, if necessary.

Lilith picked up on Brittany's desperation and in a rare act of seeming compromise offered, "I'll tell you what, if you pick all the blackberries in my yard and do the canning, I'll give you the money for your meaningless...trinket."

“That sounds like a lot of work," Brittany complained, "and I don't know how to make jam!"

"That’s fine," Lilith replied as she thrust a recycled ice-cream bucket towards Brittany. "I'll oversee everything you do. If you want the purse bad enough, you’ll do what I say — you’ll do the work."

Brittany hesitated — some part of her feeling like she was making a pact with the devil, but that was silly. 

Brittany took the bucket.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Ashes of Alfred

Alfred was dead, but his ashes still carried the blame for present day miseries. There was much speculation regarding the madness of Alfred. Some said he was schizophrenic and manic-depressive, while others argued he was simply a fucked up alcoholic. Most everyone agreed, however, that at the root of Alfred's problem was an inheritable genetic code that could be passed along to those who came after him like a hot potato nobody wanted to be left holding when the music stopped.



Jean knew firsthand the far-reaching impact of Alfred's insanity. She, like all his descendants, was scrutinized for even the slightest hint of mental instability. Jean, who considered herself a time traveler of sorts -- an amateur family historian -- could not accept the gossip. She was obsessed with uncovering the truth about her great-great-grandfather.

It was impossible to reconcile the handsome man in the black and white photo with the madman Alfred was said to have been. He had a James Dean smile and a flirtatious tilt to his jaw that gave him an aura of charisma. Indeed, it was rumored he could exude such magnetism that people became light-headed just from being near him. This was the man with whom Jean's great-great-grandmother, Marla, had fallen blindly in love.

But Alfred had a dark side.

He was prone to severe melancholy, paranoid delusions and hallucinations. He used moonshine to silence the chatter inside his head, but it only made things worse, especially for his wife and children, who were terrorized by his psychotic rages.

The situation grew so desperate that one night Marla slit her wrists, attempting to divert Alfred's attention from their baby girl, as he tried to drown her in a barrel of rainwater. He was convinced the infant was demonically possessed. Both Marla and the baby died on that black, bloody night, and Alfred was locked away in an insane asylum until he took his own life. The remaining children were orphaned off to relatives and their lives forever tainted by their father's sins.

Jean had to discover for herself if Alfred's madness was truly inborn. She was thus compelled to travel back in time to the Saskatchewan farm where Alfred was raised. There, she found Ruby, 101 years old, who was in possession of a child-sized coffin meant for Alfred when he was eight. Jean looked at the coffin, as if it was a time machine, and listened to Ruby describe how Alfred was expected to die of rheumatic fever, but miraculously survived.

"But he turned strange after that," Ruby confided in a low, gravelly voice, "always talking to himself and banging his head."

Jean, who had been leaning in as she listened to Ruby talk, sat back in her chair now, thinking of Alfred and his fried brain. She thought of how his "recovery" from near death brought him out of one hell that included child labour on a struggling farm and physical abuse from a particularly sadistic father into a new kind of hell. This new hell consisted of long stints in various mental institutions starting from the age of 12 and continuing off and on for the remainder of his life. 

He was  subjected to every kind of "treatment" and shamed with every kind of stigma. He was plagued with all-consuming rage, crippled by overwhelming guilt, tormented with derogatory voices in his head, and debilitated by delusions that were impossible to differentiate from "reality". In the end, this cauldron of confusion was what ultimately killed not only him but his wife and infant daughter.

He was not born mad, after all, Jean thought with bittersweet realization. The world made him that way through virus, abuse and circumstance. His ashes were no more to blame than the dying embers of a previously out of control fire ignited by human folly and stoked by hatred and fear.



And it was then that Jean decided Alfred and his dubious legacy could finally be put to rest.